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Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 9.25
Production 9
Creativity 8.25
Lasting Value 8.75
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 88%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.25
Musicianship 8.75
Lyrics 9.5
Production 8.75
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Average: 91%
Inside AP.net

Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (06/11/10)
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away
Record Label: Pytheas
Release Date: May 4, 2010

It's tough being an insomniac, but I've learned to embrace it-- after all, an event-filled day doesn't offer much time for reflection or for wondering the important stuff. You know, like why anyone semi-intelligent would suggest using golf balls and old tires to plug up BP's oil disaster; what the real truths are behind Lost's unanswered mysteries; or just how great Joe Montana might have been had Skechers made Shape-Ups 25 years ago. So while the world sleeps, I ponder. The one that's been plaguing me lately is, how could I have glossed over Josh Ritter's work in the past without becoming completely enthralled, never mind taking hardly any notice at all?

A deeper look into Ritter's impressive catalog reveals him as pretty much the perfect folk songwriter. The realm of rustling acoustic songs is constraining, but Nick Drake proved decades ago that the talented tunesmith can find plenty of space to work with and create music that's anything but boring. Ritter has a similar knack for penning sparsely arranged pieces that are truly spellbinding. He also seemed to recognize early on when his stellar compositions would benefit from more muscular production. The thumping percussion on the title track of The Golden Age of Radio gives welcome weight to his wistful reflections. The Hammond organ is simply a perfect touch to the affecting soliloquy that is Hello Starling's "Kathleen". By The Animals Years, piano and ringing riffs joined in and gave rise to glistening gems like "Wolves" and "Lillian, Egypt".

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter found him further exploring bigger production, and with his new album So Runs the World Away, he continues to follow that path. The shimmering instrumental intro "Curtains" lifts to reveal "Change of Time", a slow-building ballad that seems to embody his musical evolution, starting out with soft strums before the clarion guitars and marching drums pick up. It paves the way for "The Curse", a cryptic tale about a mummy returned to life. The woman who awakened him asked, "Are you cursed?" to which he replied, "I think that I'm cured." After we find that the woman dies, the end of the song flashes back to the time when she first inquired about the curse. "He kissed her and hoped that she'd forget that question," Ritter sings. It seems the mummy was indeed cursed all along, the song itself a clever illustration how people can be dishonest and deceptive when seeking out love, even knowing fully well the grim consequences.

Ritter transitions from elaborate narrative to grounded, slice-of-life vignette with "Southern Pacifica", the type of fare that in a more stripped-down state could have fit in on his self-titled debut. Here, we're treated to gorgeous piano washes and delicate harmonies, and the end result is almost impossibly beautiful (and one of my favorite songs of the year). He trades that beauty for vitriol on the biting "Rattling Locks", on which he sings of a former lover, "All long I thought I was giving you my love, but you were just stealin' it. Now I want it back." Ouch.

Despite some apparent unfortunate encounters with love and some obvious cynicism as evidenced by "The Curse", Ritter has far from given up the fight. On the jangly, mid-tempo "Lantern", he's looking for someone to "be the light of [his] lantern", and on "See How Man Was Made", he opines, "Man ain't supposed to live alone." Here's to hoping he eventually finds what he's looking for, as the album's closer "Long Shadows" suggests he'd be on board for better or worse.

What makes So Runs the World Away (and all of Ritter's more recent output for that matter) so remarkable is that the fleshed-out wall-of-sound production isn't there to obscure, but to enhance. Polish can often hide less than stellar songwriting, but here, they strengthen and add emphasis to compositions that are already golden right from Ritter's pen, while also allowing the heavy stomp of "The Remnant" and the glittery maritime epic "Another New World" to exist. The album is something of a rollercoaster of musical styles, songwriting approaches and emotions. But most importantly, transcending it all, is Ritter's astounding power to make us hang on every word.

RIYLMatt Costa's Unfamiliar Faces
Griffin House's Flying Upside Down
M. Ward's Hold Time


Track Listing1. Curtains (0:57)
2. Change of Time (4:04)
3. The Curse (5:03)
4. Southern Pacifica (4:24)
5. Rattling Locks (4:25)
6. Folk Bloodbath (5:16)
7. Lark (3:04)
8. Lantern (5:15)
9. The Remnant (3:56)
10. See How Man Was Made (3:26)
11. Another New World (7:34)
12. Orbital (3:29)
13. Long Shadows (2:20)


Preview/Buy the album at Amazon MP3.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 15.
06:49 PM on 06/11/10
#2
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Not your best review to date, but considering it's my second favorite album of the year and Josh is my favorite songwriter currently recording music (a position he's held since 2003), I have no qualms. So glad you are getting on the train (even if you're eight years late).
07:14 PM on 06/11/10
#3
Jeremy Aaron
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Not your best review to date, but considering it's my second favorite album of the year and Josh is my favorite songwriter currently recording music (a position he's held since 2003), I have no qualms. So glad you are getting on the train (even if you're eight years late).

I normally find you're pretty loose with compliments, so any negativity should really sting...

I'm not totally surprised, though, because the review didn't come together in one sitting like many of mine do. I'm not one to write some and come back at a later time, but I had to with this one for some reason. It sucks if that was transparently the case.
07:20 PM on 06/11/10
#4
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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I normally find you're pretty loose with compliments, so any negativity should really sting...

I'm not totally surprised, though, because the review didn't come together in one sitting like many of mine do. I'm not one to write some and come back at a later time, but I had to with this one for some reason. It sucks if that was transparently the case.
Ask Steve, Blake or Chris. I can certainly provide barbs from time to timet. You normally never disappoint, but this just felt askew. Listen dude, in the end, this stuff is still some of the best editorial on the site. Which is something you always provide and I am stoked that you always do. But you know I think the world of your writing, so I'm just doing my part to provide an honest critique. Nothing but respect, man.
09:31 PM on 06/11/10
#5
luvsickcatalyst
wander eyes, ocean high.
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My only complaint would be its length. The first half about his past records is kind of drawn out, but, overall, good review and good record.
04:24 AM on 06/12/10
#6
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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My only complaint would be its length. The first half about his past records is kind of drawn out, but, overall, good review and good record.
Yep. I felt the same way. But hey, Jeremy writes some of the best editorial on this site. Can't really complain about his output. It's like finding flaw in Ian McEwan.
05:17 AM on 06/12/10
#7
gr33ndayfr3ak
www.nickferran.com
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Agreed wholeheartedly with your review, Jeremy. We're in the same boat with not getting into Josh until this album, but I'm so glad I did. Fantastic stuff.
07:47 AM on 06/12/10
#8
Blake Solomon
Leave a one-way note.
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love this album, my favorite work of his.
09:36 AM on 06/12/10
#9
Cody Nelson
facebook.com/comedyfiends
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Amazing album. Ritter is a genius, easily one of the best songwriters of his generation.
10:39 AM on 06/12/10
jco3
Oh, hello there, internet.
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Yep. I felt the same way. But hey, Jeremy writes some of the best editorial on this site. Can't really complain about his output. It's like finding flaw in Ian McEwan.
Yeah, I just read Saturday. While I enjoyed it, it did get a bit tedious mid-book. I absolutely loved the last few pages, though.
12:03 PM on 06/12/10
weaz45
stopthefuckincar.
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really solid.
01:39 PM on 06/12/10
HometownHero
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I cant seem to get into this despite my efforts
04:57 PM on 06/22/10
FuzzyPeach99
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attack attack makes me feel uncomfortable
08:06 AM on 06/29/10
Miss Heartcore
If I look back, I am lost.
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Pretty damn sure this is making top 5 in my AOTY LIST.
09:34 AM on 07/16/10
Dbollus
djdbollus.tumblr.com
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You'll be seeing this album on tons of year end lists.
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